Saturday, October 27, 2007

Charlton 0-1 QPR

Proper reports: BBC Sport,, Sporting Life, Sky Sports,

A load of old crap, resulting in a deserved win for the so-called Super Hoops of west London. And an indication that something has gone seriously wrong with our promotion push. (Or, as I just typed, "pish".)

But what?

It's hard to say. In the first half, I thought we looked a better side than the one which did so poorly against Plymouth - Lloyd Sam's return to midfield had settled us, and while Grant Basey had a few things to learn pretty quickly, he did okay as an emergency left-back and will improve with experience.

The turning point? It has to be in Pards' hands - taking off Jose Semedo at half-time. A defensive midfielder replaced by showboating second division winger Jerome Thomas? Strange. And that opinion came by text from a QPR mate watching on telly in Dublin. A voice in my ear closer to home suggested during the first half that Therry Racon would provide a livelier option. Whatever, Semedo wasn't doing much wrong, but if he had to go, then surely it should have been for the enthusiasm of Racon rather than a relative lightweight like Thomas. To to be fair, he's admitted his mistake.

And so it was that Adam Bolder scored an easy one in the 72nd minute, sending the Hoops into raptures and the Addicks into despair. It could have been worse, too, were it not for Martin Rowlands' comical penalty crashing off the post earlier.

So what has gone wrong? We started off badly after the international break and our confidence has plummeted since then. In particular, our front two look like they need counselling. In general, our strength as a team has evaporated over the past four weeks. Has there been some kind of falling out? Is there something we don't know?

And, once again, the crowd at The Valley doesn't help. I sometimes wonder exactly what Charlton fans expect to see. Sometimes I think back to the Charlton I knew as a kid, or as some bigot comedian from Kidbrooke would have hit, "Charlton nil", and I wonder if they's what they actually really enjoy, a chance for a good moan. One sad old specimen behind me only really got animated when Chris Iwulemo got substituted - he'd been moaning all game, and took great pleasure in condemning the big man as "shit". How quickly things change.

And it spreads like a disease. Booing the team off may have been justified, but it started before then. And when you see small kids dishing out wanker signs at our own team, I had to pinch myself and check that I wasn't standing in White Hart Lane. Yes, last season the likes of Marcus Bent and that fat fraud Hasselbaink deserved every little bit of abuse they got. But this lot? Seriously? Get real.

The scenes today reminded me of a visit to another London club. And, funnily enough, it was in the home ends at QPR, back in the 90s, when we beat them in the League Cup. And that was before QPR were relegated to the third division. If we want that to happen to our team, our fans are going the right way about it. We need to rebuild from here - and the fans have got to be as much a part of it as the team and the manager.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Todorov out for the season

As if to underline Rob Styles' sheer incompetence on Tuesday, it's been confirmed that Svetoslav Todorov is out for the rest of the season after the injury he sustained during the match, rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and fracturing his knee. Styles issued 10 cards during that match, but Krisztian Timar didn't see yellow for the tackle which did that - which even surprised Ian Holloway.

It's clearly a blow - and for a player with a history of injuries, it's a terrible thing to happen. While he's not always been first choice up front, we've benefited from his experience and we'll miss him coming off the bench.

So where are our options up front? Chris Iwelumo's not had a happy couple of matches up front, but we know he's capable of doing a lot. The same applies to Luke Varney, who's taken longer to settle in than we might have hoped. Beyond those two... can we recall Chris Dickson from Gillingham? This may be time for the ex-Dulwich Hamlet star to really show what he's made of. It's an outside bet, but James Walker's out on loan at Yeovil, although he's due to stay there until the end of the year. Or will be see Zheng Zhi nudged a little further up front?

Not a decision I'd like to make - over to you, Pards...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Charlton 1-2 Plymouth

Proper reports: Sporting Life, BBC Sport,

So, who was it said the Championship was a refreshing change, eh? Hands up, let's see you...

Well, although this must in no way be allowed to detract from a poor Charlton performance - Plymouth had a game plan, stuck to it, and deserved to win the match, it was an agent from the World's Most Exciting League (TM) who royally buggered up the match for anyone with the misfortune to have paid good money to watch it tonight.

Step forward our old friend Rob Styles, dumped into the second tier while his fellow Top Name Referees were fancy-danning it in the European Big Cup.

For in the Championship, we've become used to a different sort of referee. One who only takes action if he really has to. It's frustrating because you can find yourself being roughed up, but generally you get used to the style of play and can judge what you can get away with and what you can't. In fact, we've had a couple of decent refs at The Valley so far this season.

But remember the Premier League? Refs who stuck to the letter of the law... but only on occasion? The maddening inconsistency? The irritating pedantry? Rob Styles brought all that and more to The Valley tonight, dishing out 10 red cards (including Todorov, McLeod, Bougherra, Moutaouakil, Mills and Sodje), imagining fouls that weren't, denying corners that were, and holding up the match for so long in the first half that it seemed as if we'd be lucky if we were out by midnight. By 80 minutes, we looked scared to make a tackle. Just like the old days, then.

Yet was this really more of a bad-tempered affair than your average second division match? Despite the antics of veteran clot Barry Hayles and fat-arsed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, not until Styles got involved.

Styles received such abuse from the crowd that I understand he's asked for a police escort to leave The Valley - a request that's rightly been refused by the club. If this was a game in his home league, he'd be under at least some scrutiny. It's likely this tin-pot official will get away with this scot-free, which isn't going to make life any easier for the less well-known refs who usually work in this league.

Our first home defeat in six months was, though, largely of our own making. I don't think Alan Pardew will be starting us with a 4-3-3 formation again. Chris Iwelumo missed precious chances, while Luke Varney's looking worryingly shaky. Andy Reid looks like he's crying out for a rest, while Yassin Moutouakil didn't shine at right-back. It was Danny Mills who led by example, and it was his efforts that led to our goal, the ball farcically coming off Argyle keeper Luke McCormick. Without him, where would we be now?

Where we are now is sixth, where we were second on Saturday morning. Yes, this shows how tight this league is. If we want to get out of it in the right direction, we can't afford to be this weak and disorganised.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fed to the Wolves

I don't think I can add anything to what's already been said about Saturday's defeat at Wolves - as mentioned elsewhere, we're not going to win every game in this division, and so we should at least come away from that defeat having learned a few lessons. Like "defend properly". Wolves weren't exactly on fire, and nor were we. In fact, the edginess of the first half reminded me of a Premier League match, where the teams are too scared to do anything.

I just came away cursing international breaks - Andy Reid played poorly, so the rest of team was dragged down by that. And there's very little time to rest or learn new tricks before Plymouth come to The Valley. Such is life. And with Southampton, Stoke, Plymouth, Barnsley, West Brom and Wolves all within three points of us, it'll be a hairy match.

Still, result and match aside, I actually enjoyed Molineux, a PROPER GROUND in a city centre with a proper crowd and proper atmosphere (even if they spent most of it lambasting Danny Mills). The 1,000 Charlton fans were spread along a long strip at the foot of the Steve Bull Stand, guaranteeing no atmosphere whatsoever. As fans, one to forget. Hopefully, the team won't.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

'Where's Jay?'

You know what? I'm such a Johnny-come-lately that I've never been to Molineux. That'll change in a few hours, for I'm munching the breakfast of champions and about to set off north. I'm praying Andy Reid is fit, but I'm also disturbed by the series of dreams I had in the night where I was going about my business where people kept coming up to me and saying "There's Jay Bothroyd"? That's me staying off the Sam Smith's lager, then. Freddy Eastwood could be more of a threat, mind.

It's going to be a very tough match - if we come out of this with a win, you can stuff your rugby because I'll be dancing in the streets of Euston. We shall see...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Llanera collapses

BBC Radio Kent is reporting that our sponsors Llanera have filed for bankruptcy, the second sponsor in just over two years to go tits-up after Allsports tanked in 2005. Thankfully Northern Rock are already tied in with Newcastle, and the firm is believed to have already paid its sponsorship cash for this season, meaning our exposure to the crisis is limited (and if we get promoted, it probably won't matter anyway).

Can't say I'll miss the endless pushing of naff Costa Del Sidcup developments (wonder what happens to the bloke who won the home last season?) but there's always room for their ultra-keen comedy Spaniard boss should we feel the need for a new pitchside announcer (come on, why is Warrington Pete still there?)

The international break and the rugby (which I'm weirdly immune to) mean this is a quiet weekend for us, although with Andy Reid in action for Ireland this weekend, it's worth noting his bar/venue The Runner is now open for business in Nottingham.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Some thoughts on the Barnsley match

Of course, a competent blogger wouldn't have gone out after the Barnsley game and got so wrecked that he couldn't string a sentence together after returning home, but what do you come here for? Trenchant analysis?

Anyway, of course I'm a bit frustrated after the match, but look at it another way - we were arguably lucky to get the point. I thought Barnsley were the best side to come to The Valley so far this season - well-organised, defended excellently and actually came to play football. Sure, they were weedy up front, but then all that changed after they nicked that 90th minute equaliser, and the five minutes of added time was a complete panic-fest. Fair play to 'em.

Whereas we're a bit narrow, shoving everything through Reid or ZZ in the middle... and boy, we were hesitant in front of that goal in the first half.

But results went with us (cheers Southampton for beating West Brom) and we remain second, albeit in King Aidy's lengthing Hornets-shaped shadow. It's a good position to be in, and there's a lot of work to do so far. We've had a lot of luck, but also displayed a lot of skill. And we're getting our reward for it.

It's also a big test up at Wolves in a fortnight - hopefully we'll have learned some lessons, be rested, and be up for it. And now I'm going back to the pub.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Up and down with the Tykes

Just to stop us getting carried away with being near the top of the table, Barnsley are next up at The Valley.

We last played them at home on the first game of the 1999/2000 season, when Craig Hignett's highlights lit up the The Valley like a Morrisons David Beckham. We'd just gone down, their Premier League stint came the season before ours.

It was also the day I decided, "bugger it, I can afford it now, and now they're down there'll be seats going. Let's watch Charlton again". We beat them, won the league, they slipped up in the play-offs. And then things went wrong for them.

Down to the third tier in 2002. Administration. The ITV Digital fiasco. Fans got set for the worst - setting up AFC Barnsley, just in case. It got worse - PETER BLOODY RIDSDALE turned up for a year. Mind you, Sasa Ilic did play in goal for them for a bit. I saw him let in four at QPR one night.

Then, somehow, salvation. A decent manager in the shape of Andy Ritchie. A play-off spot. A trip to the finals. Promotion on penalties.

But old habits die hard. They sacked Ritchie after a poor start to the season, and got walloped 7-0 by West Brom on the last day of last season. But they stayed up.

And here they are now, with the Oakwell rollercoaster taking an unusual turn - fourth in the league under current boss Simon Davey. They tonked Bristol City 3-0 during the week, and held handy teams like Stoke and Colchester to draws.

But they're still evidence any idiot can run a football club into the ground - see the stupid row they've had with the BBC over demanding more money for commentary rights (in an area where a radio station could easily broadcast a 24/7 diet of Blades and Owls).

Why bring all this up? It's just a reminder of what we could have been if we hadn't been such a well-run club. And that's given us security they don't have at Oakwell - so even if it does go horribly wrong tomorrow, well, we had to slip up some time.

But me, I'm looking forward to it. And with Lloyd Sam out, Jerome Thomas is going to come back, chastened and hard-working, and he's going to play a blinder. Isn't he?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It's ticking over nicely

Three points and a job done at the KC Stadium last night, and a mysterious ten minutes of addled time* which sent me to the edge of the All Quiet sick chair (it's the Coventry cold, a nasty bug caught from all the sick buildings up there.) Indeed, the commentator on BBC London seemed to be pleading for mercy at the end of the match.

The main talking point's going to be the sending-off - Lloyd Sam joining the charmless Ian Ashbee for an early bath after the latter's agricultural tackle. The Tigers player who greeted Sam by trying to push him over, immediately before all hell seemed to break lose, went unpunished.

Of course, this is all too much for Hull manager Phil Brown, outraged at those BIG BAD CHARLTON BULLIES: ""The sport suffered tonight and I certainly won't be advocating the way the game was played to my players." (more)

Well, not until the weekend, anyway. Pards is outraged that "smiley boy" Sam saw red, and planned to appeal, although the FA are now making a mountain of this particular molehill by launching an investigation.

Amid all this noise, it's too easy to ignore that this was a great win for us. Let's face it, Hull are an inferior team. But they'll try to bully their way to victory. We stood firm, and prevailed. It was less of a match than a team bonding exercise, and we came through it fine. In fact, this season seems to be going to plan - early set-back, win in unwanted derby, a couple of tough draws, three points at some rough-house in East Yorkshire and our first mass brawl in yonks.

This week's story's not yet over - West Brom play Stoke tonight (a draw, please), and then we face fourth-placed (yes!) Barnsley on Saturday before another international break. Signing off this little bit of the season in the top two would be great stuff.

And it'd show the likes of Phil Brown just where he can shove his football theories, eh?

(* I'm keeping that error in there, it seems to sum it up quite nicely...)